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Mt Baker North Ridge - When Marmots Attack!
Trip Report

Mt Baker North Ridge - When Marmots Attack!

 
Mt Baker North Ridge - When Marmots Attack!

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 32.84000°N / 113.91°W

Object Title: Mt Baker North Ridge - When Marmots Attack!

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 19, 2007

Activities: Mountaineering, Ice Climbing

Season: Summer

 

Page By: ibndalight

Created/Edited: Jan 25, 2008 / Jan 25, 2008

Object ID: 375545

Hits: 7608 

Page Score: 74.92%  - 5 Votes 

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A Scary Situation

Snow and sleet was being blown sideways causing zero visibility. I could barely see my partners who were 30 feet in front of me on the rope. We had just started walking through a large area of past avalanche run out, full of evidence of past avalanches havoc. We had heard an avalanche release about 10 minutes ago. Because we could not see through the falling snow, we had no idea where it released from, except to know that the avalanche was above us. We moved as quickly as we could through this area. Then it happened. We heard a large roar of another avalanche releasing above us. We could not see anything so we just stopped, not knowing if we were about to be blasted off our feet and down the mountain or if we should run. So, we stayed frozen in place. It was the most frightening 20 seconds of my entire life, waiting to be blasted by an avalanche at any moment. Luckily, the avalanche stopped before it reached us. We were able to see this later when the weather cleared. It was a narrow escape to say the least. In my Avalanche courses, I remember learning about people with Avalanche training becoming statistics; People with training can still make bad decisions even when they know better. I was lucky to get a chance to climb another day.
Climbing on Mount Baker
 

Bad Weather

The three of us started our expedition by finding that the rain over the past 5-6 days had caused some of the stream crossings to be quite a challenge on the approach to Mount Baker. We routinely had to move up or down stream from the path. We hiked up to find downed trees or large rocks to cross the swollen creeks on. Once we reached high camp, we made camp for 2 days. We dropped down in to some of the deep crevasses and ice climbed our way out for practice for the upcoming climb of the Mount Baker’s North Ridge. This was done in horrible weather, including constant rain and sleet.
Summit in a Blizzard
 

Preparation

I climbed into my warm, dry sleeping bag about 6 pm, trying to dry off from the rain that had been pouring on us constantly for the past four days. This was my own little haven of dryness on a very wet Mount Baker. I checked my altimeter; it read just over 5500 feet. I quickly went to sleep only to awaken to the 2 am wakeup call by my climbing partners. I once again checked my altimeter. Either I had been sleep climbing or we had a weather change coming. I had gained 30 feet in elevation while I slept. It concerned me but it had stopped raining so we decided to get ready to climb the North Ridge.
Camp Life at High Camp
 

Foreshaddowing

Finally, the moment had arrived. I rolled out of my sleeping bag, put on my headlamp and headed out into the darkness to prepare for my climb. We made breakfast and noticed we had a small visitor to our campsite, a little mouse (This is foreshadowing). I had climbed Mount Baker from the other side of the mountain the year before and we had a major problem with mice. It was so bad that we had to keep all our food inside our tents at all times when we were not cooking. Even inside our tents, we had to keep them in between the two people in the center of the tent; otherwise, the mice would chew through the tent to get the food. Anyway, I warned our guide of this and he told me that we had nothing to worry about. In fact, I warned him three separate times. Each time he dismissed this as nothing to worry about. So, we left our food out in our campsite under some small rocks to keep the wind from blowing it away in plastic bags. We finished eating and headed out to the North Ridge. The beginning of which was about two-hours of glacier travel from our high camp.
Glacier Travel
 

The North Ridge

Once at the ridge proper, we started simal-climbing the 50-degree slopes and climbing the steeper sections in pitches. The North Ridge of Mount Baker is very interesting because it is a very committing climb. Once on the ridge you are going to summit. You do not really have an option to turn around and come back the way you came. The only way down is to go up. It’s quite a scary thought when high winds pickup half way up the ridge and knowing you have no choice but to push on to the top. Because it was July, the North Ridge was mostly ice with some sections still being snow covered. We continued up the ridge using two-tool ice climbing technique. My friend was leading the pitches while I followed and cleaned the gear. Cleaning is simply removing the pieces of protection the lead climber put in to protect himself in case of a fall. These items range from ice screws, to snow pickets, to dead man anchors. In order to clean, you generally have to let go of your ice tools to unscrew the ice screws or yank out the pickets.
Ice Screw Placement
 

Hanging On

With the winds we were having, it was quite a scary experience. You are hanging on to the mountain with only the two front points of your crampons into the ice and a rope to your partner. This is what separates you from a several hundred-foot fall. It was very invigorating to be on the 80-degree sections with nothing below you to stop a fall (except the rope) and taking your hands off your only connection to the mountain (your ice axes) to balance and unscrew the ice screws. In addition, if you dropped your ice tools they would be gone permanently.
Hanging On to the ice
 

No Turning Back

You would have to climb up the remainder of the ridge with only one tool - not a fun idea. The North Ridge is deceiving. Several times we thought we were only one more pitch or 100 feet away from being on top of the ridge; only to get there and sadly find that we had 5 more pitches to go. We brought a short rope, which is only about 75 feet, so we had to pitch out more than most people would. If you do go to climb this route, bring a 70-meter rope. You will be very glad you did.
Climbing on the Ice on Baker
Climbing on the Ice on Baker

Decent

We finally reached the top of the ridge. The weather had been windy but no rain, which was unlike all the other days we had experienced on the mountain so far. Once on top of the ridge, we climbed between two high ice cliffs through a small passageway to reach the summit. This was exactly when the weather turned bad. It was like the flip of a switch and the weather changed from windy and overcast to full-blown blizzard conditions. We started to descend shortly after reaching the summit, because the weather was worsening quickly. We had been climbing for almost 12 hours at this point and were starting to get tired. We descended the walkup route. We had the avalanche incident as I mentioned earlier and proceeded to camp. It took us about 15 hours round trip. It was a very long day; all of us were tired. All we wanted was to cook some food and crawl into our sleeping bags. However, when we rolled into camp we found that a tag team of animals had ravaged our food supply. Our best guess is a gang of ravens, marmots, mice and other small animals had been the culprits. Upon further investigation, we found that we had only some half-eaten coffee, and a can, without a label, left that the raven could not peck though. Although they did give it their best shot and dented the can. We were devastated. All we wanted to do was to get out of our wet clothes and crawl into our sleeping bags after eating a warm meal but that was not going to happen. We had no other choice but to pack up camp and head down to the car where we could get some food. This was at least a two-hour hike away. So, we packed up and headed back down the mountain. After 18.5 hours of climbing and descending, we reached the car. Wet, tired, and hungry, we ate the Snickers bar we had packed and headed into town to find some food. All together, the animals ate two full 2-pound bags of rice, three Tasty Bites pouches, an 8-pack of Snickers, an avocado, and two bags of dehydrated paste and sauce. They even took the wrappers from most of the items because they were nowhere to be found. It had all become their feast.
Sunset from High Camp
 

When Marmots Attack!!!

It was a very long day; all of us were tired. All we wanted was to cook some food and crawl into our sleeping bags. However, when we rolled into camp we found that a tag team of animals had ravaged our food supply. Our best guess is a gang of ravens, marmots, mice and other small animals had been the culprits. Upon further investigation, we found that we had only some half-eaten coffee, and a can, without a label, left that the raven could not peck though. Although they did give it their best shot and dented the can. We were devastated. All we wanted to do was to get out of our wet clothes and crawl into our sleeping bags after eating a warm meal but that was not going to happen. We had no other choice but to pack up camp and head down to the car where we could get some food. This was at least a two-hour hike away. So, we packed up and headed back down the mountain. After 18.5 hours of climbing and descending, we reached the car. Wet, tired, and hungry, we ate the Snickers bar we had packed and headed into town to find some food. All together, the animals ate two full 2-pound bags of rice, three Tasty Bites pouches, an 8-pack of Snickers, an avocado, and two bags of dehydrated paste and sauce. They even took the wrappers from most of the items because they were nowhere to be found. It had all become their feast.

High Camp Sunrise
 


Besides the badly ironic ending to our trip, it was a great experience. The North Ridge is a fun yet challenging ice climb. It was scary at points with avalanches coming down the hill at us but we did learn a few lessons in the process. We were glad to finally dry off and, once we had eaten, we laughed about our silly mistakes. It you would like to read more of my adventure check out my personal site My personal climbing site with trip reports and photos from other climbs

Images

Sunset from High Camp

Comments


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vancouver islanderDear Sir

vancouver islander

Voted 10/10

Thanks for the days entertainment. My buddies and I had a great time watching you guys hauling your asses up the ridge, dodging avalanches and balancing precariously while removing pro.

It was made all the more enjoyable by all the excellent snacks you left behind for us. Very thoughtful I must say.

Please let us know when you're coming again and we'll invite even more of our friends.

Yours most gratefully,

I M A Thievingmarmot,
President,
Mt Baker Chapter
Homo Sapiens Appreciation Society.
Posted Jan 25, 2008 6:14 pm

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